Caroline Wilson and Eddie McGuire have gone toe-to-toe over the feasibility of another day time grand final as opposed to a twilight grand final, as the AFL deliberates on this year’s start time for its showpiece event.
With the league currently in the midst of broadcast negotiations and attendance figures low this season, the commission is yet to decide on when this year’s grand final will kick off.
After two consecutive years which saw the grand final start at later time slots, a 6:30pm AEST start time in 2020 and a 7:15pm AEST starting time in 2021, this season could potentially see a return to the traditional 2:30pm AEST start time at the MCG.
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Speaking on Nine’s Footy Classifiedveteran football writer Caroline Wilson, who has long been a supporter of maintaining certain AFL traditions, suggested that a traditional time slot would be possible, despite the AFL being in the midst of broadcast negotiations.
However, McGuire, the former Collingwood president and a long-time advocate of a twilight grand final, disagreed when the heated debate kicked off.
Here is how the full exchange took place, with fellow Footy Classified panellists Ross Lyon and Matthew Lloyd also chiming in:
Caroline Wilson: “I think it would be nice, given that the grand final hasn’t been at the ‘G’ since 2019, it would be great to see an afternoon grand final and I dispute the fact that the media rights are going to be worth that much more money if the grand finale is played in twilight.”
Eddie McGuire: “Caro, I just can’t be vehemently more opposed to you. AFLW, AFLM, COVID deficit, possible class actions, Tasmania, half the clubs are still insolvent and you want to go in with half the ratings? They’ll drop $2 million people if it’s played on a Saturday afternoon.”
Ross Lyons: “What’s the metric? How many millions of dollars?”
CW: “It’s not all about money, Ross.”
ME: “It is!”
CW: “No, it’s about the heart of the game. How many traditions do you strip away?”
LR: “Do you want gender equity in the suburbs? You can roll your eyes Caroline but someone’s got to pay.”
CW: “It’s one game, the game is not going to live or die on an afternoon or twilight grand final. Ed throws up 2019, it was Richmond-GWS, who no one really supports.”
LR: “Do you know the metric?”
CW: “Well no, but the broadcasters tell me that the money is not that significantly different. Yes, obviously the ratings are higher.”
ME: “That’s the broadcasters who said they weren’t going to put any more money in and who gave everyone a haircut when COVID came in. Suddenly there’s some overseas fair dinkum money coming in, and with the dollar at 68 (cents) earlier today, it’s getting cheaper for the overseasers by the second. People have got to get past this Cinderella thing that we have. We live in the real world in the AFL. If the women want to get more money – and so they should – someone’s got to pay for it.”
CW: “It’s one game, Ed. It’s not going to change everything.”
ME: “When Mr. Amazon, Mr. Paramount comes to the table and says, ‘What are the top shows?’, and it’s got Married At First Sight and all the rest of it, because we left 2 million people on the table in Queensland and New South Wales-“
CW: “They look at the whole-“
ME: “Let me finish. Sorry Caro, I wouldn’t know, I’ve only done the negotiations and ran a footy club for 23 years. I’ll tell you what’s going on: we need to get the money in. If it’s two hours difference and it makes you get two to two and a half million more people in the areas that we’ve spent $100 million to try and get people to watch, why would we put it on at night if we’re trying to get Queensland to build the game? In the No.1 and No.3 markets in Australia, why would we make it as hard as possible? It’s called ‘prime time’ for a reason.”
CW: “I don’t think you’ll get another 1000 kids in Greater Western Sydney giving up soccer to play Australian rules footy-“
ME: “Caro, stop for a second. Caro, stop please. They play ring tin tin on a Saturday afternoon. It’s not about getting them to play, it’s getting them to watch and see the ads, and if you’re prepared to leave $50 million on the table and have us be behind three State of Origin games and an NRL grand final at a time where we’re fighting for our lives … because the ratings are off and people aren’t turning up to games, you’ ve got to be off your head. I think the AFL commission are absolutely derelict in their duty if they do not have a good look at this and I don’t want to hear ‘Oh, we’re keeping the bounce’. Three weeks ago they wanted to keep the bounce, now they’ve banned it for women.”
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Matthew Lloyd: “It’s a great argument … because there’s a lot of people who would agree with tradition, so I understand the argument. The passion and seeing the side from a money perspective and the tradition, but it’s just a matter of time before it goes in that direction.”
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ME: “Mate, I love the tradition, but we don’t play six games on a Saturday anymore. Can I just say this? we’ve got 1350 mouths to feed just playing footy, forget about grassroots, forget about all the other stuff we have to do. Where’s the money coming from? Caro didn’t want to put up the Northern Stand at the MCG because of tradition. It was cancer-ridden, there were leather seats that were made out of-“
CW: “That isn’t true!”
ME: “Hey, don’t make me go and find your column because I’ve got it indelibly marked up here (points at head).”
CW: “That is an absolutely wicked lie, Ed! Stop it.”
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